WITHOUT pausing in her winter voyage Agrippina arrived at the island of Corcyra, facing the shores of Calabria. There she spent a few days to compose her mind, for she was wild with grief and knew not how to endure. Meanwhile on hearing of her arrival, all her intimate friends and several officers, every one indeed who had served under Germanicus, many strangers too from the neighbouring towns, some thinking it respectful to the emperor, and still more following their example, thronged eagerly to Brundisium, the nearest and safest landing place for a voyager.
As soon as the fleet was seen on the horizon, not only the harbour and the adjacent shores, but the city walls too and the roofs and every place which commanded the most distant prospect were filled with crowds of mourners, who incessantly asked one another, whether, when she landed, they were to receive her in silence or with some utterance of emotion. They were not agreed on what befitted the occasion when the fleet slowly approached, its crew, not joyous as is usual, but wearing all a studied expression of grief. When Agrippina descended from the vessel with her two children, clasping the funeral urn, with eyes riveted to the earth, there was one universal groan. You could not distinguish kinsfolk from strangers, or the laments of men from those of women; only the attendants of Agrippina, worn out as they were by long sorrow, were surpassed by the mourners who now met them, fresh in their grief.
The emperor had despatched two praetorian cohorts with instructions that the magistrates of Calabria, Apulia, and Campania were to pay the last honours to his son’s memory. Accordingly tribunes and centurions bore Germanicus’s ashes on their shoulders. They were preceded by the standards unadorned and the faces reversed. As they passed colony after colony, the populace in black, the knights in their state robes, burnt vestments and perfumes with other usual funeral adjuncts, in proportion to the wealth of the place. Even those whose towns were out of the route, met the mourners, offered victims and built altars to the dead, testifying their grief by tears and wailings. Drusus went as far as Tarracina with Claudius, brother of Germanicus, and had been at Rome. Marcus Valerius and Caius Aurelius, the consuls, who had already entered on office, and a great number of the people thronged the road in scattered groups, every one weeping as he felt inclined. Flattery there was none, for all knew that Tiberius could scarcely dissemble his joy at the death of Germanicus.
Tiberius Augusta refrained from showing themselves, thinking it below their dignity to shed tears in public, or else fearing that, if all eyes scrutinised their faces, their hypocrisy would be revealed. I do not find in any historian or in the daily register that Antonia, Germanicus’s mother, rendered any conspicuous honour to the deceased, though besides Agrippina, Drusus, and Claudius, all his other kinsfolk are mentioned by name. She may either have been hindered by illness, or with a spirit overpowered by grief she may not have had the heart to endure the sight of so great an affliction. But I can more easily believe that Tiberius and Augusta, who did not leave the palace, kept her within, that their sorrow might seem equal to hers, and that the grandmother and uncle might be thought to follow the mother’s example in staying at home.
The day on which the remains were consigned to the tomb of Augustus, was now desolate in its silence, now distracted by lamentations. The streets of the city were crowded; torches were blazing throughout the Campus Martius. There the soldiers under arms, the magistrates without their symbols of office, the people in the tribes, were all incessantly exclaiming that the commonwealth was ruined, that not a hope remained, too boldly and openly to let one think that they remembered their rulers. But nothing impressed Tiberius more deeply than the enthusiasm kindled in favor of Agrippina, whom men spoke of as the glory of the country, the sole surviving off spring of Augustus, the solitary example of the old times, while looking up to heaven and the gods they prayed for the safety of her children and that they might outlive their oppressors.
Some there were who missed the grandeur of a state-funeral, and contrasted the splendid honours conferred by Augustus on Drusus, the father of Germanicus. “Then the emperor himself,” they said, “went in the extreme rigour of winter as far as Ticinum, and never leaving the corpse entered Rome with it. Round the funeral bier were ranged the images of the Claudii and the Julii; there was weeping in the forum, and a panegyric before the rostra; every honour devised by our ancestors or invented by their descendants was heaped on him. But as for Germanicus, even the customary distinctions due to any noble had not fallen to his lot. Granting that his body, because of the distance of tie journey, was burnt in any fashion in foreign lands, still all the more honours ought to have been afterwards paid him, because at first chance had denied them. His brother had gone but one day’s journey to meet him; his uncle, not even to the city gates. Where were all those usages of the past, the image at the head of the bier, the lays composed in commemoration of worth, the eulogies and laments, or at least the semblance of grief?”
All this was known to Tiberius, and, to silence popular talk, he reminded the people in a proclamation that many eminent Romans had died for their country and that none had been honoured with such passionate regret. This regret was a glory both to himself and to all, provided only a due mean were observed; for what was becoming in humble homes and communities, did not befit princely personages and an imperial people. Tears and the solace found in mourning were suitable enough for the first burst of grief; but now they must brace their hearts to endurance, as in former days the Divine Julius after the loss of his only daughter, and the Divine Augustus when he was bereft of his grandchildren, had thrust away their sorrow. There was no need of examples from the past, showing how often the Roman people had patiently endured the defeats of armies, the destruction of generals, the total extinction of noble families. Princes were mortal; the State was everlasting. Let them then return to their usual pursuits, and, as the shows of the festival of the Great Goddess were at hand, even resume their amusements.
The suspension of business then ceased, and men went back to their occupations. Drusus was sent to the armies of Illyricum, amidst an universal eagerness to exact vengeance on Piso, and ceaseless complaints that he was meantime roaming through the delightful regions of Asia and Achaia, and was weakening the proofs of his guilt by an insolent and artful procrastination. It was indeed widely rumoured that the notorius poisoner Martina, who, as I have related, had been despatched to Rome by Cneius Sentius, had died suddenly at Brundisium; that poison was concealed in a knot of her hair, and that no symptoms of suicide were discovered on her person.
Piso meanwhile sent his son on to Rome with a message intended to pacify the emporer, and then made his way to Drusus, who would, he hoped, be not so much infuriated at his brother’s death as kindly disposed towards himself in consequence of a rival’s removal. Tiberius, to show his impartiality, received the youth courteously, and enriched him with the liberality he usually bestowed on the sons of noble families. Drusus replied to Piso that if certain insinuations were true, he must be foremost in his resentment, but he preferred to believe that they were false and groundless, and that Germanicus’s death need be the ruin of no one. This he said openly, avoiding anything like secrecy. Men did not doubt that his answer prescribed him by Tiberius, inasmuch as one who had generally all the simplicity and candour of youth, now had recourse to the artifices of old age.
Piso, after crossing the Dalmatian sea and leaving his ships at Ancona, went through Picenum and along the Flaminian road, where he overtook a legion which was marching from Pannonia to Rome and was then to garrison Africa. It was a matter of common talk how he had repeatedly displayed himself to the soldiers on the road during the march. From Narnia, to avoid suspicion or because the plans of fear are uncertain, he sailed down the Nar, then down the Tiber, and increased the fury of the populace by bringing his vessel to shore at the tomb of the Caesars. In broad daylight, when the river-bank was thronged, he himself with a numerous following of dependents, and Plancina with a retinue of women, moved onward with joy in their countenances. Among other things which provoked men’s anger was his house towering above the forum, gay with festal decorations, his banquets and his feasts, about which there was no secrecy, because the place was so public.
Next day, Fulcinius Trio asked the consul’s leave to prosecute Piso. It was contended against him by Vitellius and Veranius and the others who had been the companions of Germanicus, that this was not Trio’s proper part, and that they themselves meant to report their instructions from Germanicus, not as accusers, but as deponents and witnesses to facts. Trio, abandoning the prosecution on this count, obtained leave to accuse Piso’s previous career, and the emperor was requested to undertake the inquiry. This even the accused did not refuse, fearing, as he did, the bias of the people and of the Senate; while Tiberius, he knew, was resolute enough to despise report, and was also entangled in his mother’s complicity. Truth too would be more easily distinguished from perverse misrepresentation by a single judge, where a number would be swayed by hatred and ill-will.
Tiberius was not unaware of the formidable difficulty of the inquiry and of the rumours by which he was himself assailed. Having therefore summoned a few intimate friends, he listened to the threatening speeches of the prosecutors and to the pleadings of the accused, and finally referred the whole case to the Senate.
Drusus meanwhile, on his return from Illyricum, though the Senate had voted him an ovation for the submission of Maroboduus and the successes of the previous summer, postponed the honour and entered Rome. Then the defendant sought the advocacy of Lucius Arruntius, Marcus Vinicius, Asinius Gallus, Aeserninus Marcellus and Sextus Pompeius, and on their declining for different reasons, Marcus Lepidus, Lucius Piso, and Livineius Regulus became his counsel, amid the excitement of the whole country, which wondered how much fidelity would be shown by the friends of Germanicus, on what the accused rested his hopes, and how far Tiberius would repress and hide his feelings. Never were the people more keenly interested; never did they indulge themselves more freely in secret whispers against the emperor or in the silence of suspicion.
On the day the Senate met, Tiberius delivered a speech of studied moderation. “Piso,” he said, “was my father’s representative and friend, and was appointed by myself, on the advice of the Senate, to assist Germanicus in the administration of the East. Whether he there had provoked the young prince by wilful opposition and rivalry, and had rejoiced at his death or wickedly destroyed him, is for you to determine with minds unbiassed. Certainly if a subordinate oversteps the bounds of duty and of obedience to his commander, and has exulted in his death and in my affliction, I shall hate him and exclude him from my house, and I shall avenge a personal quarrel without resorting to my power as emperor. If however a crime is discovered which ought to be punished, whoever the murdered man may be, it is for you to give just reparation both to the children of Germanicus and to us, his parents.
“Consider this too, whether Piso dealt with the armies in a revolutionary and seditious spirit; whether he sought by intrigue popularity with the soldiers; whether he attempted to repossess himself of the province by arms, or whether these are falsehoods which his accusers have published with exaggeration. As for them, I am justly angry with their intemperate zeal. For to what purpose did they strip the corpse and expose it to the pollution of the vulgar gaze, and circulate a story among foreigners that he was destroyed by poison, if all this is still doubtful and requires investigation? For my part, I sorrow for my son and shall always sorrow for him; still I would not hinder the accused from producing all the evidence which can relieve his innocence or convict Germanicus of any unfairness, if such there was. And I implore you not to take as proven charges alleged, merely because the case is intimately bound up with my affliction. Do you, whom ties of blood or your own true-heartedness have made his advocates, help him in his peril, every one of you, as far as each man’s eloquence and diligence can do so. To like exertions and like persistency I would urge the prosecutors. In this, and in this only, will we place Germanicus above the laws, by conducting the inquiry into his death in this house instead of in the forum, and before the Senate instead of before a bench of judges. In all else let the case be tried as simply as others. Let no one heed the tears of Drusus or my own sorrow, or any stories invented to our discredit.”
Two days were then assigned for the bringing forward of the charges, and after six days’ interval, the prisoner’s defence was to occupy three days. Thereupon Fulcinius Trio began with some old and irrelevant accusations about intrigues and extortion during Piso’s government of Spain. This, if proved, would not have been fatal to the defendant, if he cleared himself as to his late conduct, and, if refuted, would not have secured his acquittal, if he were convicted of the greater crimes. Next, Servaeus, Veranius, and Vitellius, all with equal earnestness, Vitellius with striking eloquence, alleged against Piso that out of hatred of Germanicus and a desire of revolution he had so corrupted the common soldiers by licence and oppression of the allies that he was called by the vilest of them “father of the legions” while on the other hand to all the best men, especially to the companions and friends of Germanicus, he had been savagely cruel. Lastly, he had, they said, destroyed Germanicus himself by sorceries and poison, and hence came those ceremonies and horrible sacrifices made by himself and Plancina; then he had threatened the State with war, and had been defeated in battle, before he could be tried as a prisoner.
On all points but one the defence broke down. That he had tampered with the soldiers, that his province had been at the mercy of the vilest of them, that he had even insulted his chief, he could not deny. It was only the charge of poisoning from which he seemed to have cleared himself. This indeed the prosecutors did not adequately sustain by merely alleging that at a banquet given by Germanicus, his food had been tainted with poison by the hands of Piso who sat next above him. It seemed absurd to suppose that he would have dared such an attempt among strange servants, in the sight of so many bystanders, and under Germanicus’s own eyes. And, besides, the defendant offered his slaves to the torture, and insisted on its application to the attendants on that occasion. But the judges for different reasons were merciless, the emperor, because war had been made on a province, the Senate because they could not be sufficiently convinced that there had been no treachery about the death of Germanicus.
At the same time shouts were heard from the people in front of the Senate House, threatening violence if he escaped the verdict of the Senators. They had actually dragged Piso’s statues to the Gemonian stairs, and were breaking them in pieces, when by the emperor’s order they were rescued and replaced. Piso was then put in a litter and attended by a tribune of one of the Praetorian cohorts, who followed him, so it was variously rumoured, to guard his person or to be his executioner.
Plancina was equally detested, but had stronger interest. Consequently it was considered a question how far the emperor would be allowed to go against her. While Piso’s hopes were in suspense, she offered to share his lot, whatever it might be, and in the worst event, to be his companion in death. But as soon as she had secured her pardon through the secret intercessions of Augusta, she gradually withdrew from her husband and separated her defence from his. When the prisoner saw that this was fatal to him, he hesitated whether he should still persist, but at the urgent request of his sons braced his courage and once more entered the Senate. There he bore patiently the renewal of the accusation, the furious voices of the Senators, savage opposition indeed from every quarter, but nothing daunted him so much as to see Tiberius, without pity and without anger, resolutely closing himself against any inroad of emotion. He was conveyed back to his house, where, seemingly by way of preparing his defence for the next day, he wrote a few words, sealed the paper and handed it to a freedman. Then he bestowed the usual attention on his person; after a while, late at night, his wife having left his chamber, he ordered the doors to be closed, and at daybreak was found with his throat cut and a sword lying on the ground.
I remember to have heard old men say that a document was often seen in Piso’s hands, the substance of which he never himself divulged, but which his friends repeatedly declared contained a letter from Tiberius with instructions referring to Germanicus, and that it was his intention to produce it before the Senate and upbraid the emperor, had he not been deluded by vain promises from Sejanus. Nor did he perish, they said, by his own hand, but by that of one sent to be his executioner. Neither of these statements would I positively affirm; still it would not have been right for me to conceal what was related by those who lived up to the time of my youth.
The emperor, assuming an air of sadness, complained in the Senate that the purpose of such a death was to bring odium on himself, and he asked with repeated questionings how Piso had spent his last day and night. Receiving answers which were mostly judicious, though in part somewhat incautious, he read out a note written by Piso, nearly to the following effect:—
“Crushed by a conspiracy of my foes and the odium excited by a lying charge, since my truth and innocence find no place here, I call the immortal gods to witness that towards you Caesar, I have lived loyally, and with like dutiful respect towards your mother. And I implore you to think of my children, one of whom, Cneius is in way implicated in my career, whatever it may have been, seeing that all this time he has been at Rome, while the other, Marcus Piso, dissuaded me from returning to Syria. Would that I had yielded to my young son rather than he to his aged father! And therefore I pray the more earnestly that the innocent may not pay the penalty of my wickedness. By forty-five years of obedience, by my association with you in the consulate, as one who formerly won the esteem of the Divine Augustus, your father, as one who is your friend and will never hereafter ask a favour, I implore you to save my unhappy son.” About Plancina he added not a word.
Tiberius after this acquitted the young Piso of the charge of civil war on the ground that a son could not have refused a father’s orders, compassionating at the same time the high rank of the family and the terrible downfall even of Piso himself, however he might have deserved it. For Plancina he spoke with shame and conscious disgrace, alleging in excuse the intercession of his mother, secret complaints against whom from all good men were growing more and more vehement. “So it was the duty of a grandmother,” people said, “to look a grandson’s murderess in the face, to converse with her and rescue her from the Senate. What the laws secure on behalf of every citizen, had to Germanicus alone been denied. The voices of a Vitellius and Veranius had bewailed a Caesar, while the emperor and Augusta had defended Plancina. She might as well now turn her poisonings, and her devices which had proved so successful, against Agrippina and her children, and thus sate this exemplary grandmother and uncle with the blood of a most unhappy house.”
Two days were frittered away over this mockery of a trial, Tiberius urging Piso’s children to defend their mother. While the accusers and their witnesses pressed the prosecution with rival zeal, and there was no reply, pity rather than anger was on the increase. Aurelius Cotta, the consul, who was first called on for his vote (for when the emperor put the question, even those in office went through the duty of voting), held that Piso’s name ought to be erased from the public register, half of his property confiscated, half given up to his son, Cneius Piso, who was to change his first name; that Marcus Piso, stript of his rank, with an allowance of five million sesterces, should be banished for ten years, Plancina’s life being spared in consideration of Augusta’s intercession.
Much of the sentence was mitigated by the emperor. The name of Piso was not to be struck out of the public register, since that of Marcus Antonius who had made war on his country, and that of Julius Antonius who had dishonoured the house of Augustus, still remained. Marcus Piso too he saved from degradation, and gave him his father’s property, for he was firm enough, as I have often related, against the temptation of money, and now for very shame at Plancina’s acquittal, he was more than usually merciful. Again, when Valerius Messalinus and Caecina Severus proposed respectively the erection of a golden statue in the temple of Mars the Avenger and of an altar to Vengeance, he interposed, protesting that victories over the foreigner were commemorated with such monuments, but that domestic woes ought to be shrouded in silent grief.
There was a further proposal of Messalinus, that Tiberius, Augusta, Antonia, Agrippina and Drusus ought to be publicly thanked for having avenged Germanicus. He omitted all mention of Claudius. Thereupon he was pointedly asked by Lucius Asprenas before the Senate, whether the omission had been intentional, and it was only then that the name of Claudius was added. For my part, the wider the scope of my reflection on the present and the past, the more am I impressed by their mockery of human plans in every transaction. Clearly, the very last man marked out for empire by public opinion, expectation and general respect was he whom fortune was holding in reserve as the emperor of the future.
A few days afterwards the emperor proposed to the Senate to confer the priesthood on Vitellius, Veranius and Servaeus. To Fulcinius he promised his support in seeking promotion, but warned him not to ruin his eloquence by rancour. This was the end of avenging the death of Germanicus, a subject of conflicting rumours not only among the people then living but also in after times. So obscure are the greatest events, as some take for granted any hearsay, whatever its source, others turn truth into falsehood, and both errors find encouragement with posterity.
Drusus meanwhile quitted Rome to resume his command and soon afterwards re-entered the city with an ovation. In the course of a few days his mother Vipsania died, the only one of all Agrippa’s children whose death was without violence. As for the rest, they perished, some it is certain by the sword, others it was believed by poison or starvation.
That same year Tacfarinas who had been defeated, as I have related, by Camillus in the previous summer, renewed hostilities in Africa, first by mere desultory raids, so swift as to be unpunished; next, by destroying villages and carrying off plunder wholesale. Finally, he hemmed in a Roman cohort near the river Pagyda. The position was commanded by Decrius, a soldier energetic in action and experienced in war, who regarded the siege as a disgrace. Cheering on his men to offer battle in the open plain, he drew up his line in front of his intrenchments. At the first shock, the cohort was driven back, upon which he threw himself fearlessly amid the missiles in the path of the fugitives and cried shame on the standard-bearers for letting Roman soldiers show their backs to a rabble of deserters. At the same moment he was covered with wounds, and though pierced through the eye, he resolutely faced the enemy and ceased not to fight till he fell deserted by his men.
On receiving this information, Lucius Apronius, successor to Camillus, alarmed more by the dishonour of his own men than by the glory of the enemy, ventured on a deed quite exceptional at that time and derived from old tradition. He flogged to death every tenth man drawn by lot from the disgraced cohort. So beneficial was this rigour that a detachment of veterans, numbering not more than five hundred, routed those same troops of Tacfarinas on their attacking a fortress named Thala. In this engagement Rufus Helvius, a common soldier, won the honour of saving a citizen’s life, and was rewarded by Apronius with a neck-chain and a spear. To these the emperor added the civic crown, complaining, but without anger, that Apronius had not used his right as proconsul to bestow this further distinction.
Tacfarinas, however, finding that the Numidians were cowed and had a horror of siege-operations, pursued a desultory warfare, retreating when he was pressed, and then again hanging on his enemy’s rear. While the barbarian continued these tactics, he could safely insult the baffled and exhausted Romans. But when he marched away towards the coast and, hampered with booty, fixed himself in a regular camp, Caesianus was despatched by his father Apronius with some cavalry and auxiliary infantry, reinforced by the most active of the legionaries, and, after a successful battle with the Numidians, drove them into the desert.
At Rome meanwhile Lepida, who beside the glory of being one of the Aemilii was the great-granddaughter of Lucius Sulla and Cneius Pompeius, was accused of pretending to be a mother by Publius Quirinus, a rich and childless man. Then, too, there were charges of adulteries, of poisonings, and of inquiries made through astrologers concerning the imperial house. The accused was defended by her brother Manius Lepidus. Quirinus by his relentless enmity even after his divorce, had procured for her some sympathy, infamous and guilty as she was. One could not easily perceive the emperor’s feelings at her trial; so effectually did he interchange and blend the outward signs of resentment and compassion. He first begged the Senate not to deal with the charges of treason, and subsequently induced Marcus Servilius, an ex-consul, to divulge what he had seemingly wished to suppress. He also handed over to the consuls Lepida’s slaves, who were in military custody, but would not allow them to be examined by torture on matters referring to his own family. Drusus too, the consul-elect, he released from the necessity of having to speak first to the question. Some thought this a gracious act, done to save the rest of the Senators from a compulsory assent, while others ascribed it to malignity, on the ground that he would have yielded only where there was a necessity of condemning.
On the days of the games which interrupted the trial, Lepida went into the theatre with some ladies of rank, and as she appealed with piteous wailings to her ancestors and to that very Pompey, the public buildings and statues of whom stood there before their eyes, she roused such sympathy that people burst into tears and shouted, without ceasing, savage curses on Quirinus, “to whose childless old-age and miserably obscure family, one once destined to be the wife of Lucius Caesar and the daughter-in-law of the Divine Augustus was being sacrificed.” Then, by the torture of the slaves, her infamies were brought to light, and a motion of Rubellius Blandus was carried which outlawed her. Drusus supported him, though others had proposed a milder sentence. Subsequently, Scaurus, who had had daughter by her, obtained as a concession that her property should not be confiscated. Then at last Tiberius declared that he had himself too ascertained from the slaves of Publius Quirinus that Lepida had attempted their master’s life by poison.
It was some compensation for the misfortunes of great houses (for within a short interval the Calpurnii had lost Piso and the Aemilii Lepida) that Decimus Silanus was now restored to the Junian family. I will briefly relate his downfall.
Though the Divine Augustus in his public life enjoyed unshaken prosperity, he was unfortunate at home from the profligacy of his daughter and granddaughter, both of whom he banished from Rome, and punished their paramours with death or exile. Calling, as he did, a vice so habitual among men and women by the awful name of sacrilege and treason, he went far beyond the indulgent spirit of our ancestors, beyond indeed his own legislation. But I will relate the deaths of others with the remaining events of that time, if after finishing the work I have now proposed to myself, I prolong my life for further labours.
Decimus Silanus, the paramour of the granddaughter of Augustus, though the only severity he experienced was exclusion from the emperor’s friendship, saw clearly that it meant exile; and it was not till Tiberius’s reign that he ventured to appeal to the Senate and to the prince, in reliance on the influence of his brother Marcus Silanus, who was conspicuous both for his distinguished rank and eloquence. But Tiberius, when Silanus thanked him, replied in the Senate’s presence, “that he too rejoiced at the brother’s return from his long foreign tour, and that this was justly allowable, inasmuch as he had been banished not by a decree of the Senate or under any law. Still, personally,” he said, “he felt towards him his father’s resentment in all its force, and the return of Silanus had not cancelled the intentions of Augustus.” Silanus after this lived at Rome without attaining office.
It was next proposed to relax the Papia Poppaea law, which Augustus in his old age had passed subsequently to the Julian statutes, for yet further enforcing the penalties on celibacy and for enriching the exchequer. And yet, marriages and the rearing of children did not become more frequent, so powerful were the attractions of a childless state. Meanwhile there was an increase in the number of persons imperilled, for every household was undermined by the insinuations of informers; and now the country suffered from its laws, as it had hitherto suffered from its vices. This suggests to me a fuller discussion of the origin of law and of the methods by which we have arrived at the present endless multiplicity and variety of our statutes.
Mankind in the earliest age lived for a time without a single vicious impulse, without shame or guilt, and, consequently, without punishment and restraints. Rewards were not needed when everything right was pursued on its own merits; and as men desired nothing against morality, they were debarred from nothing by fear. When however they began to throw off equality, and ambition and violence usurped the place of self-control and modesty, despotisms grew up and became perpetual among many nations. Some from the beginning, or when tired of kings, preferred codes of laws. These were at first simple, while men’s minds were unsophisticated. The most famous of them were those of the Cretans, framed by Minos; those of the Spartans, by Lycurgus, and, subsequently, those which Solan drew up for the Athenians on a more elaborate and extensive scale. Romulus governed us as he pleased; then Numa united our people by religious ties and a constitution of divine origin, to which some additions were made by Tullus and Ancus. But Servius Tullius was our chief legislator, to whose laws even kings were to be subject.
After Tarquin’s expulsion, the people, to check cabals among the Senators, devised many safeguards for freedom and for the establishment of unity. Decemvirs were appointed; everything specially admirable elsewhere was adopted, and the Twelve Tables drawn up, the last specimen of equitable legislation. For subsequent enactments, though occasionally directed against evildoers for some crime, were oftener carried by violence amid class dissensions, with a view to obtain honours not as yet conceded, or to banish distinguished citizens, or for other base ends. Hence the Gracchi and Saturnini, those popular agitators, and Drusus too, as flagrant a corrupter in the Senate’s name; hence, the bribing of our allies by alluring promises and the cheating them by tribunes vetoes. Even the Italian and then the Civil war did not pass without the enactment of many conflicting laws, till Lucius Sulla, the Dictator, by the repeal or alteration of past legislation and by many additions, gave us a brief lull in this process, to be instantly followed by the seditious proposals of Lepidus, and soon afterwards by the tribunes recovering their license to excite the people just as they chose. And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.
Cneius Pompeius was then for the third time elected consul to reform public morals, but in applying remedies more terrible than the evils and repealing the legislation of which he had himself been the author, he lost by arms what by arms he had been maintaining. Then followed twenty years of continuous strife; custom or law there was none; the vilest deeds went unpunished, while many noble acts brought ruin. At last, in his sixth consulship, Caesar Augustus, feeling his power secure, annulled the decrees of his triumvirate, and gave us a constitution which might serve us in peace under a monarchy. Henceforth our chains became more galling, and spies were set over us, stimulated by rewards under the Papia Poppaea law, so that if men shrank from the privileges of fatherhood, the State, as universal parent, might possess their ownerless properties. But this espionage became too searching, and Rome and Italy and Roman citizens everywhere fell into its clutches. Many men’s fortunes were ruined, and over all there hung a terror till Tiberius, to provide a remedy, selected by lot five ex-consuls, five ex-praetors, and five senators, by whom most of the legal knots were disentangled and some light temporary relief afforded.
About this same time he commended to the Senate’s favour, Nero, Germanicus’s son, who was just entering on manhood, and asked them, not without smiles of ridicule from his audience, to exempt him from serving as one of the Twenty Commissioners, and let him be a candidate for quaestorship five years earlier than the law allowed. His excuse was that a similar decree had been made for himself and his brother at the request of Augustus. But I cannot doubt that even then there were some who secretly laughed at such a petition, though the Caesars were but in the beginning of their grandeur, and ancient usage was more constantly before men’s eyes, while also the tie between stepfather and stepson was weaker than that between grandfather and grandchild. The pontificate was likewise conferred on Nero, and on the day on which he first entered the forum, a gratuity was given to the city-populace, who greatly rejoiced at seeing a son of Germanicus now grown to manhood. Their joy was further increased by Nero’s marriage to Julia, Drusus’s daughter. This news was met with favourable comments, but it was heard with disgust that Sejanus was to be the father-in-law of the son of Claudius. The emperor was thought to have polluted the nobility of his house and to have yet further elevated Sejanus, whom they already suspected of overweening ambition.
Two remarkable men died at the end of the year, Lucius Volusius and Sallustius Crispus. Volusius was of an old family, which had however never risen beyond the praetorship. He brought into it the consulship; he also held the office of censor for arranging the classes of the knights, and was the first to pile up the wealth which that house enjoyed to a boundless extent.
Crispus was of equestrian descent and grandson of a sister of Caius Sallustius, that most admirable Roman historian, by whom he was adopted and whose name he took. Though his road to preferment was easy, he chose to emulate Maecenas, and without rising to a senator’s rank, he surpassed in power many who had won triumphs and consulships. He was a contrast to the manners of antiquity in his elegance and refinement, and in the sumptuousness of his wealth he was almost a voluptuary. But beneath all this was a vigorous mind, equal to the greatest labours, the more active in proportion as he made a show of sloth and apathy. And so while Maecenas lived, he stood next in favour to him, and was afterwards the chief depository of imperial secrets, and accessory to the murder of Postumus Agrippa, till in advanced age he retained the shadow rather than the substance of the emperor’s friendship. The same too had happened to Maecenas, so rarely is it the destiny of power to be lasting, or perhaps a sense of weariness steals over princes when they have bestowed everything, or over favourites, when there is nothing left them to desire.
Next followed Tiberius’s fourth, Drusus’s second consulship, memorable from the fact that father and son were colleagues. Two years previously the association of Germanicus and Tiberius in the same honour had not been agreeable to the uncle, nor had it the link of so close a natural tie.
At the beginning of this year Tiberius, avowedly to recruit his health, retired to Campania, either as a gradual preparation for long and uninterrupted seclusion, or in order that Drusus alone in his father’s absence might discharge the duties of the consulship. It happened that a mere trifle which grew into a sharp contest gave the young prince the means of acquiring popularity. Domitius Corbulo, an ex-praetor, complained to the Senate that Lucius Sulla, a young noble, had not given place to him at a gladiatorial show. Corbulo had age, national usage and the feelings of the older senators in his favour. Against him Mamercus Scaurus, Lucius Arruntius and other kinsmen of Sulla strenuously exerted themselves. There was a keen debate, and appeal was made to the precedents of our ancestors, as having censured in severe decrees disrespect on the part of the young, till Drusus argued in a strain calculated to calm their feelings. Corbulo too received an apology from Mamercus, who was Sulla’s uncle and stepfather, and the most fluent speaker of that day.
It was this same Corbulo, who, after raising a cry that most of the roads in Italy were obstructed or impassable through the dishonesty of contractors and the negligence of officials, himself willingly undertook the complete management of the business. This proved not so beneficial to the State as ruinous to many persons, whose property and credit he mercilessly attacked by convictions and confiscations.
Soon afterwards Tiberius informed the Senate by letter that Africa was again disturbed by an incursion of Tacfarinas, and that they must use their judgment in choosing as proconsul an experienced soldier of vigorous constitution, who would be equal to the war. Sextus Pompeius caught at this opportunity of venting his hatred against Lepidus, whom he condemned as a poor-spirited and needy man, who was a disgrace to his ancestors, and therefore deserved to lose even his chance of the province of Asia. But the Senate were against him, for they thought Lepidus gentle rather than cowardly, and that his inherited poverty, with the high rank in which he had lived without a blot, ought to be considered a credit to instead of a reproach. And so he was sent to Asia, and with respect to Africa it was decided that the emperor should choose to whom it was to be assigned.
During this debate Severus Caecina proposed that no magistrate who had obtained a province should be accompanied by his wife. He began by recounting at length how harmoniously he had lived with his wife, who had borne him six children, and how in his own home he had observed what he was proposing for the public, by having kept her in Italy, though he had himself served forty campaigns in various provinces. “With good reason,” he said, “had it been formerly decided that women were not to be taken among our allies or into foreign countries. A train of women involves delays through luxury in peace and through panic in war, and converts a Roman army on the march into the likeness of a barbarian progress. Not only is the sex feeble and unequal to hardship, but, when it has liberty, it is spiteful, intriguing and greedy of power. They show themselves off among the soldiers and have the centurions at their beck. Lately a woman had presided at the drill of the cohorts and the evolutions of the legions. You should yourselves bear in mind that, whenever men are accused of extortion, most of the charges are directed against the wives. It is to these that the vilest of the provincials instantly attach themselves; it is they who undertake and settle business; two persons receive homage when they appear; there are two centres of government, and the women’s orders are the more despotic and intemperate. Formerly they were restrained by the Oppian and other laws; now, loosed from every bond, they rule our houses, our tribunals, even our armies.”
A few heard this speech with approval, but the majority clamorously objected that there was no proper motion on the subject, and that Caecina was no fit censor on so grave an issue. Presently Valerius Messalinus, Messala’s son, in whom the father’s eloquence was reproduced, replied that much of the sternness of antiquity had been changed into a better and more genial system. “Rome,” he said, “is not now, as formerly, beset with wars, nor are the provinces hostile. A few concessions are made to the wants of women, but such as are not even a burden to their husbands homes, much less to the allies. In all other respects man and wife share alike, and this arrangement involves no trouble in peace. War of course requires that men should be unincumbered, but when they return what worthier solace can they have after their hardships than a wife’s society? But some wives have abandoned themselves to scheming and rapacity. Well; even among our magistrates, are not many subject to various passions? Still, that is not a reason for sending no one into a province. Husbands have often been corrupted by the vices of their wives. Are then all unmarried men blameless? The Oppian laws were formerly adopted to meet the political necessities of the time, and subsequently there was some remission and mitigation of them on grounds of expediency. It is idle to shelter our own weakness under other names; for it is the husband’s fault if the wife transgresses propriety. Besides, it is wrong that because of the imbecility of one or two men, all husbands should be cut off from their partners in prosperity and adversity. And further, a sex naturally weak will be thus left to itself and be at the mercy of its own voluptuousness and the passions of others. Even with the husband’s personal vigilance the marriage tie is scarcely preserved inviolate. What would happen were it for a number of years to be forgotten, just as in a divorce? You must not check vices abroad without remembering the scandals of the capital.”
Drusus added a few words on his own experience as a husband. “Princes,” he said, “must often visit the extremities of their empire. How often had the Divine Augustus travelled to West and to the East accompanied by Livia? He had himself gone to Illyricum and, should it be expedient, he would go to other countries, not always however with a contented mind, if he had to tear himself from a much loved wife, the mother of his many children.”
Caecina’s motion was thus defeated. At the Senate’s next meeting came a letter from Tiberius, which indirectly censured them for throwing on the emperor every political care, and named Marcus Lepidus and Junius Blaesus, one of whom was to be chosen pro-consul of Africa. Both spoke on the subject, and Lepidus begged earnestly to be excused. He alleged ill-health, his children’s tender age, his having a daughter to marry, and something more of which he said nothing, was well understood, the fact that Blaesus was uncle of Sejanus and so had very powerful interest. Blaesus replied with an affectation of refusal, but not with the same persistency, nor was he backed up by the acquiescence of flatterers.
Next was exposed an abuse, hitherto the subject of many a whispered complaint. The vilest wretches used a growing freedom in exciting insult and obloquy against respectable citizens, and escaped punishment by clasping some statue of the emperor. The very freedman or slave was often an actual terror to his patron or master whom he would menace by word and gesture. Accordingly Caius Cestius, a senator, argued that “though princes were like deities, yet even the gods listened only to righteous prayers from their suppliants, and that no one fled to the Capitol or any other temple in Rome to use it as an auxiliary in crime. There was an end and utter subversion of all law when, in the forum and on the threshold of the Senate House, Annia Rufilla, whom he had convicted of fraud before a judge, assailed him with insults and threats, while he did not himself dare to try legal proceedings, because he was confronted by her with the emperor’s image.” There rose other clamorous voices, with even more flagrant complaints, and all implored Drusus to inflict exemplary vengeance, till he ordered Rufilla to be summoned, and on her conviction to be confined in the common prison.
Considius Aequus too and Coelius Cursor, Roman knights, were punished on the emperor’s proposal, by a decree of the Senate, for having attacked the praetor, Magius Caecilianus, with false charges of treason. Both these results were represented as an honour to Drusus. By moving in society at Rome, amid popular talk, his father’s dark policy, it was thought, was mitigated. Even voluptuousness in one so young gave little offence. Better that he should incline that way, spend his days in architecture, his nights in banquets, than that he should live in solitude, cut off from every pleasure, and absorbed in a gloomy vigilance and mischievous schemes.
Tiberius indeed and the informers were never weary. Ancharius Priscus had prosecuted Caesius Cordus, proconsul of Crete, for extortion, adding a charge of treason, which then crowned all indictments. Antistius Vetus, one of the chief men of Macedonia, who had been acquitted of adultery, was recalled by the emperor himself, with a censure on the judges, to be tried for treason, as a seditious man who had been implicated in the designs of Rhescuporis, when that king after the murder of his brother Cotys had meditated war against us. The accused was accordingly outlawed, with the further sentence that he was to be confined in an island from which neither Macedonia nor Thrace were conveniently accessible.
As for Thrace, since the division of the kingdom between Rhoemetalces and the children of Cotys, who because of their tender age were under the guardianship of Trebellienus Rufus, it was divided against itself, from not being used to our rule, and blamed Rhoemetalces no less than Trebellienus for allowing the wrongs of his countrymen to go unpunished. The Coelaletae, Odrusae and Dii, powerful tribes, took up arms, under different leaders, all on a level from their obscurity. This hindered them from combining in a formidable war. Some roused their immediate neighbourhood; others crossed Mount Haemus, to stir up remote tribes; most of them, and the best disciplined, besieged the king in the city of Philippopolis, founded by the Macedonian Philip.
When this was known to Publius Vellaeus who commanded the nearest army, he sent some allied cavalry and light infantry to attack those who were roaming in quest of plunder or of reinforcements, while he marched in person with the main strength of the foot to raise the siege. Every operation was at the same moment successful; the pillagers were cut to pieces; dissensions broke out among the besiegers, and the king made a well-timed sally just as the legion arrived. A battle or even a skirmish it did not deserve to be called, in which merely half-armed stragglers were slaughtered without bloodshed on our side.
That same year, some states of Gaul, under the pressure of heavy debts, attempted a revolt. Its most active instigators were Julius Florus among the Treveri and Julius Sacrovir among the Aedui. Both could show noble birth and signal services rendered by ancestors, for which Roman citizenship had formerly been granted them, when the gift was rare and a recompense only of merit. In secret conferences to which the fiercest spirits were admitted, or any to whom poverty or the fear of guilt was an irresistible stimulus to crime, they arranged that Florus was to rouse the Belgae, Sacrovir the Gauls nearer home. These men accordingly talked sedition before small gatherings and popular assemblies about the perpetual tributes, the oppressive usury, the cruelty and arrogance of their governors, hinting too that there was disaffection among our soldiers, since they had heard of the murder of Germanicus. “It was,” they said, “a grand opportunity for the recovery of freedom, if only they would contrast their own vigour with the exhaustion of Italy, the unwarlike character of the city populace, and the utter weakness of Rome’s armies in all but their foreign element.”
Scarcely a single community was untouched by the germs of this commotion. First however in actual revolt were the Andecavi and Turoni. Of these the former were put down by an officer, Acilius Aviola, who had summoned a cohort which was on garrison duty at Lugdunum. The Turoni were quelled by some legionary troops sent by Visellius Varro who commanded in Lower Germany, and led by the same Aviola and some Gallic chieftains who brought aid, in order that they might disguise their disaffection and exhibit it at a better opportunity. Sacrovir too was conspicuous, with head uncovered, cheering on his men to fight for Rome, to display, as he said, his valour. But the prisoners asserted that he sought recognition that he might not be a mark for missiles. Tiberius when consulted on the matter disdained the information, and fostered the war by his irresolution.
Florus meanwhile followed up his designs and tried to induce a squadron of cavalry levied among the Treveri, trained in our service and discipline, to begin hostilities by a massacre of the Roman traders. He corrupted a few of the men, but the majority were steadfast in their allegiance. A host however of debtors and dependents took up arms, and they were on their way to the forest passes known as the Arduenna, when they were stopped by legions which Visellius and Silius had sent from their respective armies, by opposite routes, to meet them. Julius Indus from the same state, who was at feud with Florus and therefore particularly eager to render us a service, was sent on in advance with a picked force, and dispersed the undisciplined rabble. Florus after eluding the conquerors by hiding himself in one place after another, at last when he saw some soldiers who had barred every possible escape, fell by his own hand. Such was the end of the rebellion of the Treveri.
A more formidable movement broke out among the Aedui, proportioned to the greater wealth of the state and the distance of the force which should repress it. Sacrovir with some armed cohorts had made himself master of Augustodunum, the capital of the tribe, with the noblest youth of Gaul, there devoting themselves to a liberal education, and with such hostages he proposed to unite in his cause their parents and kinsfolk. He also distributed among the youth arms which he had had secretly manufactured. There were forty thousand, one fifth armed like our legionaries; the rest had spears and knives and other weapons used in the chase. In addition were some slaves who were being trained for gladiators, clad after the national fashion in a complete covering of steel. They were called crupellarii, and though they were ill-adapted for inflicting wounds, they were impenetrable to them. This army was continually increased, not yet by any open combination of the neighbouring states, but by zealous individual enthusiasm, as well as by strife between the Roman generals, each of whom claimed the war for himself. Varro after a while, as he was infirm and aged, yielded to Silius who was in his prime.
At Rome meanwhile people said that it was not only the Treveri and Aedui who had revolted, but sixty-four states of Gaul with the Germans in alliance, while Spain too was disaffected; anything in fact was believed, with rumour’s usual exaggeration. All good men were saddened by anxiety for the country, but many in their loathing of the present system and eagerness for change, rejoiced at their very perils and exclaimed against Tiberius for giving attention amid such political convulsions to the calumnies of informers. “Was Sacrovir too,” they asked, “to be charged with treason before the Senate? We have at last found men to check those murderous missives by the sword. Even war is a good exchange for a miserable peace.” Tiberius all the more studiously assumed an air of unconcern. He changed neither his residence nor his look, but kept up his usual demeanour during the whole time, either from the profoundness of his reserve; or was it that he had convinced himself that the events were unimportant and much more insignificant than the rumours represented?
Silius meantime was advancing with two legions, and having sent forward some auxiliary troops was ravaging those villages of the Sequani, which, situated on the border, adjoin the Aedui, and were associated with them in arms. He then pushed on by forced marches to Augustodunum, his standard-bearers vying in zeal, and even the privates loudly protesting against any halt for their usual rest or during the hours of night. “Only,” they said, “let us have the foe face to face; that will be enough for victory.” Twelve miles from Augustodunum they saw before them Sacrovir and his army in an open plain. His men in armour he had posted in the van, his light infantry on the wings, and the half-armed in the rear. He himself rode amid the foremost ranks on a splendid charger, reminding them of the ancient glories of the Gauls, of the disasters they had inflicted on the Romans, how grand would be the freedom of the victorious, how more intolerable than ever the slavery of a second conquest.
His words were brief and heard without exultation. For now the legions in battle array were advancing, and the rabble of townsfolk who knew nothing of war had their faculties of sight and hearing quite paralysed. Silius, on the one hand, though confident hope took away any need for encouragement, exclaimed again and again that it was a shame to the conquerors of Germany to have to be led against Gauls, as against an enemy. “Only the other day the rebel Turoni had been discomfited by a single cohort, the Treveri by one cavalry squadron, the Sequani by a few companies of this very army. Prove to these Aedui once for all that the more they abound in wealth and luxury, the more unwarlike are they, but spare them when they flee.”
Then there was a deafening cheer; the cavalry threw itself on the flanks, and the infantry charged the van. On the wings there was but a brief resistance. The men in mail were somewhat of an obstacle, as the iron plates did not yield to javelins or swords; but our men, snatching up hatchets and pickaxes, hacked at their bodies and their armour as if they were battering a wall. Some beat down the unwieldy mass with pikes and forked poles, and they were left lying on the ground, without an effort to rise, like dead men. Sacrovir with his most trustworthy followers hurried first to Augustodunum and then, from fear of being surrendered, to an adjacent country house. There by his own hand he fell, and his comrades by mutually inflicted wounds. The house was fired over their heads, and with it they were all consumed.
Then at last Tiberius informed the Senate by letter of the beginning and completion of the war, without either taking away from or adding to the truth, but ascribing the success to the loyalty and courage of his generals, and to his own policy. He also gave the reasons why neither he himself nor Drusus had gone to the war; he magnified the greatness of the empire, and said it would be undignified for emperors, whenever there was a commotion in one or two states, to quit the capital, the centre of all government. Now, as he was not influenced by fear, he would go to examine and settle matters.
The Senate decreed vows for his safe return, with thanksgivings and other appropriate ceremonies. Cornelius Dolabella alone, in endeavouring to outdo the other Senators, went the length of a preposterous flattery by proposing that he should enter Rome from Campania with an ovation. Thereupon came a letter from the emperor, declaring that he was not so destitute of renown as after having subdued the most savage nations and received or refused so many triumphs in his youth, to covet now that he was old an unmeaning honour for a tour in the neighbourhood of Rome.
About the same time he requested the Senate to let the death of Sulpicius Quirinus be celebrated with a public funeral. With the old patrician family of the Sulpicii this Quirinus, who was born in the town of Lanuvium, was quite unconnected. An indefatigable soldier, he had by his zealous services won the consulship under the Divine Augustus, and subsequently the honours of a triumph for having stormed some fortresses of the Homonadenses in Cilicia. He was also appointed adviser to Caius Caesar in the government of Armenia, and had likewise paid court to Tiberius, who was then at Rhodes. The emperor now made all this known to the Senate, and extolled the good offices of Quirinus to himself, while he censured Marcus Lollius, whom he charged with encouraging Caius Caesar in his perverse and quarrelsome behaviour. But people generally had no pleasure in the memory of Quirinus, because of the perils he had brought, as I have related, on Lepida, and the meanness and dangerous power of his last years.
At the close of the year, Caius Lutorius Priscus, a Roman knight, who, after writing a popular poem bewailing the death of Germanicus, had received a reward in money from the emperor, was fastened on by an informer, and charged with having composed another during the illness of Drusus, which, in the event of the prince’s death, might be published with even greater profit to himself. He had in his vanity read it in the house of Publius Petronius before Vitellia, Petronius’s mother-in-law, and several ladies of rank. As soon as the accuser appeared, all but Vitellia were frightened into giving evidence. She alone swore that she had heard not a word. But those who criminated him fatally were rather believed, and on the motion of Haterius Agrippa, the consul-elect, the last penalty was invoked on the accused.
Marcus Lepidus spoke against the sentence as follows:—“Senators, if we look to the single fact of the infamous utterance with which Lutorius has polluted his own mind and the ears of the public, neither dungeon nor halter nor tortures fit for a slave would be punishment enough for him. But though vice and wicked deeds have no limit, penalties and correctives are moderated by the clemency of the sovereign and by the precedents of your ancestors and yourselves. Folly differs from wickedness; evil words from evil deeds, and thus there is room for a sentence by which this offence may not go unpunished, while we shall have no cause to regret either leniency or severity. Often have I heard our emperor complain when any one has anticipated his mercy by a self-inflicted death. Lutorius’s life is still safe; if spared, he will be no danger to the State; if put to death, he will be no warning to others. His productions are as empty and ephemeral as they are replete with folly. Nothing serious or alarming is to be apprehended from the man who is the betrayer of his own shame and works on the imaginations not of men but of silly women. However, let him leave Rome, lose his property, and be outlawed. That is my proposal, just as though he were convicted under the law of treason.”
Only one of the ex-consuls, Rubellius Blandus, supported Lepidus. The rest voted with Agrippa. Priscus was dragged off to prison and instantly put to death. Of this Tiberius complained to the Senate with his usual ambiguity, extolling their loyalty in so sharply avenging the very slightest insults to the sovereign, though he deprecated such hasty punishment of mere words, praising Lepidus and not censuring Agrippa. So the Senate passed a resolution that their decrees should not be registered in the treasury till nine days had expired, and so much respite was to be given to condemned persons. Still the Senate had not liberty to alter their purpose, and lapse of time never softened Tiberius.
Caius Sulpicius and Didius Haterius were the next consuls. It was a year free from commotions abroad, while at home stringent legislation was apprehended against the luxury which had reached boundless excess in everything on which wealth is lavished. Some expenses, though very serious, were generally kept secret by a concealment of the real prices; but the costly preparations for gluttony and dissipation were the theme of incessant talk, and had suggested a fear that a prince who clung to oldfashioned frugality would be too stern in his reforms. In fact, when the aedile Caius Bibulus broached the topic, all his colleagues had pointed out that the sumptuary laws were disregarded, that prohibited prices for household articles were every day on the increase, and that moderate measures could not stop the evil.
The Senate on being consulted had, without handling the matter, referred it to the emperor. Tiberius, after long considering whether such reckless tastes could be repressed, whether the repression of them would not be still more hurtful to the State, also, how undignified it would be to meddle with what he could not succeed in, or what, if effected, would necessitate the disgrace and infamy of men of distinction, at last addressed a letter to the Senate to the following purport:—
Perhaps in any other matter, Senators, it would be more convenient that I should be consulted in your presence, and then state what I think to be for the public good. In this debate it was better that my eyes should not be on you, for while you were noting the anxious faces of individual senators charged with shameful luxury, I too myself might observe them and, as it were, detect them. Had those energetic men, our aediles, first taken counsel with me, I do not know whether I should not have advised them to let alone vices so strong and so matured, rather than merely attain the result of publishing what are the corruptions with which we cannot cope. They however have certainly done their duty, as I would wish all other officials likewise to fulfil their parts. For myself, it is neither seemly to keep silence nor is it easy to speak my mind, as I do not hold the office of aedile, praetor, or consul. Something greater and loftier is expected of a prince, and while everybody takes to himself the credit of right policy, one alone has to bear the odium of every person’s failures. For what am I first to begin with restraining and cutting down to the old standard? The vast dimensions of country houses? The number of slaves of every nationality? The masses of silver and gold? The marvels in bronze and painting? The apparel worn indiscriminately by both sexes, or that peculiar luxury of women which, for the sake of jewels, diverts our wealth to strange or hostile nations?
I am not unaware that people at entertainments and social gatherings condemn all this and demand some restriction. But if a law were to be passed and a penalty imposed, those very same persons will cry out that the State is revolutionised, that ruin is plotted against all our most brilliant fashion, that not a citizen is safe from incrimination. Yet as even bodily disorders of long standing and growth can be checked only by sharp and painful treatment, so the fever of a diseased mind, itself polluted and a pollution to others, can be quenched only by remedies as strong as the passions which inflame it. Of the many laws devised by our ancestors, of the many passed by the Divine Augustus, the first have been forgotten, while his (all the more to our disgrace) have become obsolete through contempt, and this has made luxury bolder than ever. The truth is, that when one craves something not yet forbidden, there is a fear that it may be forbidden; but when people once transgress prohibitions with impunity, there is no longer any fear or any shame.
Why then in old times was economy in the ascendant? Because every one practised self-control; because we were all members of one city. Nor even afterwards had we the same temptations, while our dominion was confined to Italy. Victories over the foreigner taught us how to waste the substance of others; victories over ourselves, how to squander our own. What a paltry matter is this of which the aediles are reminding us! What a mere trifle if you look at everything else! No one represents to the Senate that Italy requires supplies from abroad, and that the very existence of the people of Rome is daily at the mercy of uncertain waves and storms. And unless masters, slaves, and estates have the resources of the provinces as their mainstay, our shrubberies, forsooth, and our country houses will have to support us.
Such, Senators, are the anxieties which the prince has to sustain, and the neglect of them will be utter ruin to the State. The cure for other evils must be sought in our own hearts. Let us be led to amendment, the poor by constraint, the rich by satiety. Or if any of our officials give promise of such energy and strictness as can stem the corruption, I praise the man, and I confess that I am relieved of a portion of my burdens. But if they wish to denounce vice, and when they have gained credit for so doing they arouse resentments and leave them to me, be assured, Senators, that I too am by no means eager to incur enmities, and though for the public good I encounter formidable and often unjust enmities, yet I have a right to decline such as are unmeaning and purposeless and will be of use neither to myself nor to you.
When they had heard the emperor’s letter, the aediles were excused from so anxious a task, and that luxury of the table which from the close of the war ended at Actium to the armed revolution in which Servius Galba rose to empire, had been practised with profuse expenditure, gradually went out of fashion. It is as well that I should trace the causes of this change.
Formerly rich or highly distinguished noble families often sank into ruin from a passion for splendour. Even then men were still at liberty to court and be courted by the city populace, by our allies and by foreign princes, and every one who from his wealth, his mansion and his establishment was conspicuously grand, gained too proportionate lustre by his name and his numerous clientele. After the savage massacres in which greatness of renown was fatal, the survivors turned to wiser ways. The new men who were often admitted into the Senate from the towns, colonies and even the provinces, introduced their household thrift, and though many of them by good luck or energy attained an old age of wealth, still their former tastes remained. But the chief encourager of strict manners was Vespasian, himself old-fashioned both in his dress and diet. Henceforth a respectful feeling towards the prince and a love of emulation proved more efficacious than legal penalties or terrors. Or possibly there is in all things a kind of cycle, and there may be moral revolutions just as there are changes of seasons. Nor was everything better in the past, but our own age too has produced many specimens of excellence and culture for posterity to imitate. May we still keep up with our ancestors a rivalry in all that is honourable!
Tiberius having gained credit for forbearance by the check he had given to the growing terror of the informers, wrote a letter to the Senate requesting the tribunitian power for Drusus. This was a phrase which Augustus devised as a designation of supremacy, so that without assuming the name of king or dictator he might have some title to mark his elevation above all other authority. He then chose Marcus Agrippa to be his associate in this power, and on Agrippa’s death, Tiberius Nero, that there might be no uncertainty as to the succession. In this manner he thought to check the perverse ambition of others, while he had confidence in Nero’s moderation and in his own greatness.
Following this precedent, Tiberius now placed Drusus next to the throne, though while Germanicus was alive he had maintained an impartial attitude towards the two princes. However in the beginning of his letter he implored heaven to prosper his plans on behalf of the State, and then added a few remarks, without falsehood or exaggeration, on the character of the young prince. He had, he reminded them, a wife and three children, and his age was the same as that at which he had himself been formerly summoned by the Divine Augustus to undertake this duty. Nor was it a precipitate step; it was only after an experience of eight years, after having quelled mutinies and settled wars, after a triumph and two consulships, that he was adopted as a partner in trials already familiar to him.
The senators had anticipated this message and hence their flattery was the more elaborate. But they could devise nothing but voting statues of the two princes, shrines to certain deities, temples, arches and the usual routine, except that Marcus Silanus sought to honour the princes by a slur on the consulate, and proposed that on all monuments, public or private, should be inscribed, to mark the date, the names, not of the consuls, but of those who were holding the tribunitian power. Quintus Haterius, when he brought forward a motion that the decrees passed that day should be set up in the Senate House in letters of gold, was laughed at as an old dotard, who would get nothing but infamy out of such utterly loathsome sycophancy.
Meantime Junius Blaesus received an extension of his government of Africa, and Servius Maluginensis, the priest of Jupiter, demanded to have Asia allotted to him. “It was,” he asserted, “a popular error that it was not lawful for the priests of Jupiter to leave Italy; in fact, his own legal position differed not from that of the priests of Mars and of Quirinus. If these latter had provinces allotted to them, why was it forbidden to the priests of Jupiter? There were no resolutions of the people or anything to be found in the books of ceremonies on the subject. Pontiffs had often performed the rites to Jupiter when his priest was hindered by illness or by public duty. For seventy-five years after the suicide of Cornelius Merula no successor to his office had been appointed; yet religious rites had not ceased. If during so many years it was possible for there to be no appointment without any prejudice to religion, with what comparative ease might he be absent for one year’s proconsulate? That these priests in former days were prohibited by the pontiff from going into the provinces, was the result of private feuds. Now, thank heaven, the supreme pontiff was also the supreme man, and was influenced by no rivalry, hatred or personal feeling.”
As the augur Lentulus and others argued on various grounds against this view, the result was that they awaited the decision of the supreme pontiff. Tiberius deferred any investigation into the priest’s legal position, but he modified the ceremonies which had been decreed in honour of Drusus’s tribunitian power with special censure on the extravagance of the proposed inscription in gold, so contrary to national usage. Letters also from Drusus were read, which, though studiously modest in expression, were taken to be extremely supercilious. “We have fallen so low,” people said, “that even a mere youth who has received so high an honour does not go as a worshipper to the city’s gods, does not enter the Senate, does not so much as take the auspices on his country’s soil. There is a war, forsooth, or he is kept from us in some remote part of the world. Why, at this very moment, he is on a tour amid the shores and lakes of Campania. Such is the training of the future ruler of mankind; such the lesson he first learns from his father’s counsels. An aged emperor may indeed shrink from the citizen’s gaze, and plead the weariness of declining years and the toils of the past. But, as for Drusus, what can be his hindrance but pride?”
Tiberius meantime, while securing to himself the substance of imperial power, allowed the Senate some shadow of its old constitution by referring to its investigation certain demands of the provinces. In the Greek cities license and impunity in establishing sanctuaries were on the increase. Temples were thronged with the vilest of the slaves; the same refuge screened the debtor against his creditor, as well as men suspected of capital offences. No authority was strong enough to check the turbulence of a people which protected the crimes of men as much as the worship of the gods.
It was accordingly decided that the different states were to send their charters and envoys to Rome. Some voluntarily relinquished privileges which they had groundlessly usurped; many trusted to old superstitions, or to their services to the Roman people. It was a grand spectacle on that day, when the Senate examined grants made by our ancestors, treaties with allies, even decrees of kings who had flourished before Rome’s ascendancy, and the forms of worship of the very deities, with full liberty as in former days, to ratify or to alter.
First of all came the people of Ephesus. They declared that Diana and Apollo were not born at Delos, as was the vulgar belief. They had in their own country a river Cenchrius, a grove Ortygia, where Latona, as she leaned in the pangs of labour on an olive still standing, gave birth to those two deities, whereupon the grove at the divine intimation was consecrated. There Apollo himself, after the slaughter of the Cyclops, shunned the wrath of Jupiter; there too father Bacchus, when victorious in war, pardoned the suppliant Amazons who had gathered round the shrine. Subsequently by the permission of Hercules, when he was subduing Lydia, the grandeur of the temple’s ceremonial was augmented, and during the Persian rule its privileges were not curtailed. They had afterwards been maintained by the Macedonians, then by ourselves.
Next the people of Magnesia relied on arrangements made by Lucius Scipio and Lucius Sulla. These generals, after respectively defeating Antiochus and Mithridates, honoured the fidelity and courage of the Magnesians by allowing the temple of Diana of the White Brow to be an inviolable sanctuary. Then the people of Aphrodisia produced a decree of the dictator Caesar for their old services to his party, and those of Stratonicea, one lately passed by the Divine Augustus, in which they were commended for having endured the Parthian invasion without wavering in their loyalty to the Roman people. Aphrodisia maintained the worship of Venus; Stratonicea, that of Jupiter and of Diana of the Cross Ways.
Hierocaesarea went back to a higher antiquity, and spoke of having a Persian Diana, whose fane was consecrated in the reign of Cyrus. They quoted too the names of Perperna, Isauricus, and many other generals who had conceded the same sacred character not only to the temple but to its precincts for two miles. Then came the Cyprians on behalf of three shrines, the oldest of which had been set up by their founder Aerias to the Paphian Venus, the second by his son Amathus to Venus of Amathus, and the last to Jupiter of Salamis, by Teucer when he fled from the wrath of his father Telamon.
Audience was also given to embassies from other states. The senators wearied by their multiplicity and seeing the party spirit that was being roused, intrusted the inquiry to the consuls, who were to sift each title and see if it involved any abuse, and then refer back the entire matter to the Senate. Besides the states already mentioned, the consuls reported that they had ascertained that at Pergamus there was a sanctuary of Aesculapius, but that the rest relied on an origin lost in the obscurity of antiquity. For example, the people of Smyrna quoted an oracle of Apollo, which had commanded them to dedicate a temple to Venus Stratonicis; and the islanders of Tenos, an utterance from the same deity, bidding them consecrate a statue and a fane to Neptune. Sardis preferred a more modern claim, a grant from the victorious Alexander. So again Miletus relied on king Darius. But in each case their religious worship was that of Diana or Apollo. The Cretans too demanded a like privilege for a statue of the Divine Augustus. Decrees of the Senate were passed, which though very respectful, still prescribed certain limits, and the petitioners were directed to set up bronze tablets in each temple, to be a sacred memorial and to restrain them from sinking into selfish aims under the mask of religion.
About this time Julia Augusta had an alarming illness, which compelled the emperor to hasten his return to Rome, for hitherto there had been a genuine harmony between the mother and son, or a hatred well concealed. Not long before, for instance, Julia in dedicating a statue to the Divine Augustus near the theatre of Marcellus had inscribed the name of Tiberius below her own, and it was surmised that the emperor, regarding this as a slight on a sovereign’s dignity, had brooded over it with deep and disguised resentment. However the Senate now decreed supplications to the gods and the celebration of the Great Games, which were to be exhibited by the pontiffs, augurs, the colleges of the Fifteen and of the Seven, with the Augustal Brotherhood. Lucius Apronius moved that the heralds too should preside over these Games. This the emperor opposed, distinguishing the peculiar privileges of the sacred guilds, and quoting precedents. Never, he argued, had the heralds this dignity. “The Augustal priests were included expressly because their sacred office was specially attached to the family for which vows were being performed.”
My purpose is not to relate at length every motion, but only such as were conspicuous for excellence or notorious for infamy. This I regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds. So corrupted indeed and debased was that age by sycophancy that not only the foremost citizens who were forced to save their grandeur by servility, but every exconsul, most of the ex-praetors and a host of inferior senators would rise in eager rivalry to propose shameful and preposterous motions. Tradition says that Tiberius as often as he left the Senate-House used to exclaim in Greek, “How ready these men are to be slaves.” Clearly, even he, with his dislike of public freedom, was disgusted at the abject abasement of his creatures.
From unseemly flatteries they passed by degrees to savage acts. Caius Silanus, pro-consul of Asia, was accused by our allies of extortion; whereupon Mamercus Scaurus, an ex-consul, Junius Otho, a praetor, Brutidius Niger, an aedile, simultaneously fastened on him and charged him with sacrilege to the divinity of Augustus, and contempt of the majesty of Tiberius, while Mamercus Scaurus quoted old precedents, the prosecutions of Lucius Cotta by Scipio Africanus, of Servius Galba by Cato the Censor and of Publius Rutilius by Scaurus. As if indeed Scipio’s and Cato’s vengeance fell on such offences, or that of the famous Scaurus, whom his great grandson, a blot on his ancestry, this Mamercus was now disgracing by his infamous occupation. Junius Otho’s old employment had been the keeping of a preparatory school. Subsequently, becoming a senator by the influence of Sejanus, he shamed his origin, low as it was, by his unblushing effronteries. Brutidius who was rich in excellent accomplishments, and was sure, had he pursued a path of virtue, to reach the most brilliant distinction, was goaded on by an eager impatience, while he strove to outstrip his equals, then his superiors, and at last even his own aspirations. Many have thus perished, even good men, despising slow and safe success and hurrying on even at the cost of ruin to premature greatness.
Gellius Publicola and Marcus Paconius, respectively quaestor and lieutenant of Silanus, swelled the number of the accusers. No doubt was felt as to the defendant’s conviction for oppression and extortion, but there was a combination against him, that must have been perilous even to an innocent man. Besides a host of adverse Senators there were the most accomplished orators of all Asia, who, as such, had been retained for the prosecution, and to these he had to reply alone, without any experience in pleading, and under that personal apprehension which is enough to paralyse even the most practised eloquence. For Tiberius did not refrain from pressing him with angry voice and look, himself putting incessant questions, without allowing him to rebut or evade them, and he had often even to make admissions, that the questions might not have been asked in vain. His slaves too were sold by auction to the state-agent, to be examined by torture. And that not a friend might help him in his danger, charges of treason were added, a binding guarantee for sealed lips. Accordingly he begged a few days’ respite, and at last abandoned his defence, after venturing on a memorial to the emperor, in which he mingled reproach and entreaty.
Tiberius, that his proceedings against Silanus might find some justification in precedent, ordered the Divine Augustus’s indictment of Volesus Messala, also a proconsul of Asia, and the Senate’s sentence on him to be read. He then asked Lucius Piso his opinion. After a long preliminary eulogy on the prince’s clemency, Piso pronounced that Silanus ought to be outlawed and banished to the island of Gyarus. The rest concurred, with the exception of Cneius Lentulus, who, with the assent of Tiberius, proposed that the property of Silanus’s mother, as she was very different from him, should be exempted from confiscation, and given to the son.
Cornelius Dolabella however, by way of carrying flattery yet further, sharply censured the morals of Silanus, and then moved that no one of disgraceful life and notorious infamy should be eligible for a province, and that of this the emperor should be judge. “Laws, indeed,” he said, “punish crimes committed; but how much more merciful would it be to individuals, how much better for our allies, to provide against their commission.”
The emperor opposed the motion. “Although,” he said, “I am not ignorant of the reports about Silanus, still we must decide nothing by hearsay. Many a man has behaved in a province quite otherwise than was hoped or feared of him. Some are roused to higher things by great responsibility; others are paralysed by it. It is not possible for a prince’s knowledge to embrace everything, and it is not expedient that he should be exposed to the ambitious schemings of others. Laws are ordained to meet facts, inasmuch as the future is uncertain. It was the rule of our ancestors that, whenever there was first an offence, some penalty should follow. Let us not revolutionise a wisely devised and ever approved system. Princes have enough burdens, and also enough power. Rights are invariably abridged, as despotism increases; nor ought we to fall back on imperial authority, when we can have recourse to the laws.”
Such constitutional sentiments were so rare with Tiberius, that they were welcomed with all the heartier joy. Knowing, as he did, how to be forbearing, when he was not under the stimulus of personal resentment, he further said that Gyarus was a dreary and uninhabited island, and that, as a concession to the Junian family and to a man of the same order as themselves, they might let him retire by preference to Cythnus. This, he added, was also the request of Torquata, Silanus’s sister, a vestal of primitive purity. The motion was carried after a division.
Audience was next given to the people of Cyrene, and on the prosecution of Ancharius Priscus, Caesius Cordus was convicted of extortion. Lucius Ennius, a Roman knight, was accused of treason, for having converted a statue of the emperor to the common use of silver plate; but the emperor forbade his being put upon his trial, though Ateius Capito openly remonstrated, with a show of independence. “The Senate,” he said, “ought not to have wrested from it the power of deciding a question, and such a crime must not go unpunished. Granted that the emperor might be indifferent to a personal grievance, still he should not be generous in the case of wrongs to the commonwealth.” Tiberius interpreted the remark according to its drift rather than its mere expression, and persisted in his veto. Capito’s disgrace was the more conspicuous, for, versed as he was in the science of law, human and divine, he had now dishonoured a brilliant public career as well as a virtuous private life.
Next came a religious question, as to the temple in which ought to be deposited the offering which the Roman knights had vowed to Fortune of the Knights for the recovery of Augusta. Although that Goddess had several shrines in Rome, there was none with this special designation. It was ascertained that there was a temple so called at Antium, and that all sacred rites in the towns of Italy as well as temples and images of deities were under the jurisdiction and authority of Rome. Accordingly the offering was placed at Antium.
As religious questions were under discussion, the emperor now produced his answer to Servius Maluginensis, Jupiter’s priest, which he had recently deferred, and read the pontifical decree, prescribing that whenever illness attacked a priest of Jupiter, he might, with the supreme pontiff’s permission, be absent more than two nights, provided it was not during the days of public sacrifice or more than twice in the same year. This regulation of the emperor Augustus sufficiently proved that a year’s absence and a provincial government were not permitted to the priests of Jupiter. There was also cited the precedent of Lucius Metellus, supreme pontiff, who had detained at Rome the priest Aulus Postumius. And so Asia was allotted to the exconsul next in seniority to Maluginensis.
About the same time Lepidus asked the Senate’s leave to restore and embellish, at his own expense, the basilica of Paulus, that monument of the Aemilian family. Public-spirited munificence was still in fashion, and Augustus had not hindered Taurus, Philippus, or Balbus from applying the spoils of war or their superfluous wealth to adorn the capital and to win the admiration of posterity. Following these examples, Lepidus, though possessed of a moderate fortune, now revived the glory of his ancestors.
Pompeius’s theatre, which had been destroyed by an accidental fire, the emperor promised to rebuild, simply because no member of the family was equal to restoring it, but Pompeius’s name was to be retained. At the same time he highly extolled Sejanus on the ground that it was through his exertions and vigilance that such fury of the flames had been confined to the destruction of a single building. The Senate voted Sejanus a statue, which was to be placed in Pompeius’s theatre. And soon afterwards the emperor in honouring Junius Blaesus proconsul of Africa, with triumphal distinctions, said that he granted them as a compliment to Sejanus, whose uncle Blaesus was.
Still the career of Blaesus merited such a reward. For Tacfarinas, though often driven back, had recruited his resources in the interior of Africa, and had become so insolent as to send envoys to Tiberius, actually demanding a settlement for himself and his army, or else threatening us with an interminable war. Never, it is said, was the emperor so exasperated by an insult to himself and the Roman people as by a deserter and brigand assuming the character of a belligerent. “Even Spartacus when he had destroyed so many consular armies and was burning Italy with impunity, though the State was staggering under the tremendous wars of Sertorius and Mithridates, had not the offer of an honourable surrender on stipulated conditions; far less, in Rome’s most glorious height of power, should a robber like Tacfarinas be bought off by peace and concessions of territory.” He intrusted the affair to Blaesus, who was to hold out to the other rebels the prospect of laying down their arms without hurt to themselves, while he was by any means to secure the person of the chief. Many surrendered themselves on the strength of this amnesty. Before long the tactics of Tacfarinas were encountered in a similar fashion.
Unequal to us in solid military strength, but better in a war of surprises, he would attack, would elude pursuit, and still arrange ambuscades with a multitude of detachments. And so we prepared three expeditions and as many columns. One of the three under the command of Cornelius Scipio, Blaesus’s lieutenant, was to stop the enemy’s forays on the Leptitani and his retreat to the Garamantes. In another quarter, Blaesus’s son led a separate force of his own, to save the villages of Cirta from being ravaged with impunity. Between the two was the general himself with some picked troops. By establishing redoubts and fortified lines in commanding positions, he had rendered the whole country embarrassing and perilous to the foe, for, whichever way he turned, a body of Roman soldiers was in his face, or on his flank, or frequently in the rear. Many were thus slain or surprised.
Blaesus then further divided his triple army into several detachments under the command of centurions of tried valour. At the end of the summer he did not, as was usual, withdraw his troops and let them rest in winter-quarters in the old province; but, forming a chain of forts, as though he were on the threshold of a campaign, he drove Tacfarinas by flying columns well acquainted with the desert, from one set of huts to another, till he captured the chief’s brother, and then returned, too soon however for the welfare of our allies, as there yet remained those who might renew hostilities.
Tiberius however considered the war as finished, and awarded Blaesus the further distinction of being hailed “Imperator” by the legions, an ancient honour conferred on generals who for good service to the State were saluted with cheers of joyful enthusiasm by a victorious army. Several men bore the title at the same time, without pre-eminence above their fellows. Augustus too granted the name to certain persons; and now, for the last time, Tiberius gave it to Blaesus.
Two illustrious men died that year. One was Asinius Saloninus, distinguished as the grandson of Marcus Agrippa, and Asinius Pollio, as the brother of Drusus and the intended husband of the emperor’s granddaughter. The other was Capito Ateius, already mentioned, who had won a foremost position in the State by his legal attainments, though his grandfather was but a centurion in Sulla’s army, his father having been a praetor. He was prematurely advanced to the consulship by Augustus, so that he might be raised by the honour of this promotion above Labeo Antistius, a conspicuous member of the same profession. That age indeed produced at one time two brilliant ornaments of peace. But while Labeo was a man of sturdy independence and consequently of wider fame, Capito’s obsequiousness was more acceptable to those in power. Labeo, because his promotion was confined to the praetorship, gained in public favour through the wrong; Capito, in obtaining the consulship, incurred the hatred which grows out of envy.
Junia too, the niece of Cato, wife of Caius Cassius and sister of Marcus Brutus, died this year, the sixty-fourth after the battle of Philippi. Her will was the theme of much popular criticism, for, with her vast wealth, after having honourably mentioned almost every nobleman by name, she passed over the emperor. Tiberius took the omission graciously and did not forbid a panegyric before the Rostra with the other customary funeral honours. The busts of twenty most illustrious families were borne in the procession, with the names of Manlius, Quinctius, and others of equal rank. But Cassius and Brutus outshone them all, from the very fact that their likenesses were not to be seen.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01